June’s Slug Control

Days are getting hotter and drier, and more inhospitable to the slug which must stay cool and moist to survive. So now the manic spring planting season is over, it’s time to turn your attention to the kind of places where slugs love to hide during these hot summer days.

The sudden burst of lush new growth provides ample places for slugs to take refuge, so keeping this trimmed to a minimum not only helps show off the explosion of colourful summer bedding, it also robs the slug of some of its daytime haunts. Keep the lower leaves of larger annuals pruned because slugs love to shelter there too.

Keep your lawn edges trimmed. This not only adds that finishing touch to a freshly mown lawn, it removes another favourite slug refuge.

It’s from places like these that slugs emerge in droves to launch their night time attack on your plants. Go on a nocturnal slug hunt and see how many of the little blighters you can collect and dispose of. It’s a surprisingly effective form of slug control.

April Slug Control!

With April showers and warmer temperatures, a slug population explosion seems to descend upon the garden. Any surviving eggs are now hatching into miniature slugs that start feeding immediately, and despite their size, these tiny slugs have voracious appetites. It may seem early, but taking measures at this stage means less slugs develop into the monster munchers that wreak so much havoc during the coming months.

If these warmer spring days tempt you to put out summer bedding and plant up containers early, please be extra vigilant because slugs love tender young plants.

 

A mild April is often followed a colder spell later in May, and some late spring frost protection may also be required.

 

 

10 Tips for feeding your garden birds

10 Tips for feeding your garden birds

About two thirds of all households in Britain feed their garden birds at some stage of the year. Follow these simple tips and after a short time you should be attracting more birds and different species.
1. Use a bird table for putting out kitchen scraps such as animal fats, grated cheese, over ripe fruit and soaked dried fruit, rice, bread crumbs and non-salty bacon. You can also put out nuts and high calorie seed mixes. Avoid putting out raw meat and vegetables which birds will find difficult to digest and which will attract pests.

2. Hang bird feeders filled with black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes and  peanuts.


3. If the food takes a few days to clear from your bird table or the ground then reduce the amount of food offered so it does not go off.

4. Place your feeders and bird table no more than 2 metres from a shrub, fence or tree so the birds have somewhere to escape to if threatened by predators.

5. Fat blocks or fat rubbed into the barks of trees will attract many species including wrens, treecreepers, goldcrests and woodpeckers.

6. Make sure you clean your bird table and bird feeders regularly to ensure food particles and droppings do not build up. This will minimize the risk of disease.

7. Berry-bearing trees and shrubs such as hawthorn, rowan, holly, honeysuckle and ivy will not only provide fruit for birds to feed on but they will also provide somewhere for them to shelter and nest and attract insects for the birds to eat.

8. Cultivated and wild flowering plants such as sunflowers, evening primrose, teasel and shepherd’s purse provide seeds and will attract insects. Leave the stems long to give shelter in the winter and then cut down early in the spring.

9. Let your lawn grow slightly longer. If possible leave areas of grass at different heights to optimise food potential for birds. Leave a patch of long grass in the winter for shelter.

10. Put out a fresh supply of water every day – use a large dish, an upturned dustbin lid, a bird bath or you could even build a pond if you have the space. If it is very cold use tepid water.

Visit Santa here throughout December

Come along & visit Santa here in his grotto.

 

You can see Santa on the following dates –

 

Dec 2nd – 12 to 4

Dec 3rd – 11 to 4

Dec 10th – 11 to 4

Dec 16th – 11 to 4

Dec 17th – 11 to 4

Dec 18th – 2 to 5

Dec 19th – 2 to 5

Dec 20th – 2 to 5

Dec 21st – 2 to 5

Dec 23rd – 11 to 4

 

 

£5 Entry per child, every child gets a gift!

Propagators – The must have purchase this month!

Propagators – The must have purchase this month!

If you want to raise your own plants from seed, an electrically heated propagator is a must.

In fact, it only uses as much electricity as a light bulb, yet it allows you to produce all your own tomato plants, as well as many veg and bedding plants. then there are houseplants and exotics. Invest in one and it will save you a fortune – and introduce you to a very satisfying new hobby.

Setting up

Stand the propagator on a windowsill or table close to a window where it gets good light but won’t be in strong midday sun later in the spring (which will cook everything inside). A small, inexpensive, heated propagator won’t be thermostatically controlled. It will be on all the time and capable of raising the temperature inside by approximately 10°F above the ambient temperature. So in a room that is normally heated to 60-65°F, the propagator will maintain the ideal temperature (70-75°F) for raising a wide range of useful plants.

Good hygiene is vital. Sterilise some silver sand (a small bag is enough) by transferring the contents into a plastic roasting bag and baking it in the oven for an hour on a very low setting. Allow to cool, then spread a layer around ½in deep all over the base of the propagator and dampen it slightly, so that it’s just moist. this is to spread the heat evenly and maintain humidity.

Have ready a supply of clean, plastic pots; square 2in pots make the best use of space. Stand them inside, empty, to check they will fit the propagator exactly, allowing the lid to close over them.

The day before you intend starting to use the propagator, plug in and switch on, to give it time to heat up and warm through. Close the ventilators in the lid to trap the heat inside.

Plan your sowing sequence

Aim to keep the propagator full all the time it is in use, to get full value for money from the electricity used. Plan a sequence of sowings, starting now with slow-growing seeds that need warmth plus an early start, such as houseplants, pelargoniums and greenhouse peppers and aubergines.

These should be ready to move out of the propagator in mid-March. Then you can re-use the space by sowing tomatoes, herbs and peppers or aubergines to grow out of doors. In mid- to late-April, you might try sowing cucumber and melon seeds – and also some courgettes, squashes and pumpkins so that you have plants ready to put outside after the last frosts have safely passed in late May. Mark sowing dates on your gardening calendar as a reminder.

Sowing seeds

Loosely fill each pot almost to the rim with multipurpose compost, strike it off level with the side of your hand, then tap down on a hard surface to settle the compost. press the surface down very lightly with the base of another clean, dry pot to firm it gently.

Sprinkle seeds thinly and evenly over the surface. very small seeds don’t need to be covered; they need light to germinate and are easily swamped. larger seeds (tomato seed-sized upwards) should be covered to their own depth with finely sifted seed compost. Insert a label in each pot with the name of the plant, the variety and the date of sowing.

Water in the seeds by standing the pots in an inch or two of tepid water until the change of colour shows that it has soaked through the compost. Allow excess water to drain away before placing the pots inside the propagator. when it’s full, close the lid.

Check the propagator daily, watering the sand in the base slightly if it becomes dry – this also helps keep the compost in the pots at the right moisture level. when seeds start germinating, open the ventilators in the lid of the propagator to allow air exchange to take place; open them fully as the seedlings develop, to deter fungal disease. then prick the seedlings out as soon as they are big enough to handle.

10 Easy ways to help bees in your garden

10 Easy ways to help bees in your garden

With bees in trouble, our gardens are vital fast-food takeaways for bees and other beneficial bugs. As well as serving up a varied menu of plants they provide the shelter and nesting places that bees also need.

It’s a sad commentary on the declining state of nature that our gardens are proving to be better habitat for bees than our countryside. It should be the other way round but that’s one reason why Britain’s bees are in trouble.

Our green and pleasant land has lost much of its natural variety. It has become a large industrial unit, with huge fields of single crops replacing the hedgerows and the variety of plants bees need.

No wonder over 20 of the UK’s bee species are now extinct, or that a quarter of the 267 remaining bee species are endangered.

With the simple tips below, you can make your garden a bee paradise, and help other wildlife to survive in your garden and beyond.

 

1. Set up a bee garden right away 

First of all, relax. You don’t have to be an expert or have sprawling grounds. Small spaces can be great gardens. A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but gardening is about trying things out. With bees as your guide, you are likely to make rapid steps in the right direction. Best of all, you can get a lot done in fragments of time, and you can start at any time. There’s no need to wait for the perfect sunny Sunday.

2. Choose bee-friendly plants for your space 

With that in mind, start with something simple to suit your space, your time and your interests. Pots on a patio, herbs in a window box or even a hanging basket can get you going and help bees – if you grow the right plants. Also, think trees, shrubs and larger plants to provide height in your borders. A cherry or birch tree can form a backdrop to ‘layers’ of plants of different height and size closer to the front of the border.

Low growing heathers and crocuses in the front will provide colour and help feed bees in the barren months.

3. Plant through the seasons to provide year-round bee habitat 

Like you, bees need food and shelter all year round – so think about planting through the seasons. Which plants will flower and provide the nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) bees need? Remember that late winter is the time to sow seeds for spring and summer plants. Autumn planted bulbs will burst forth in spring. When the soil warms in the spring, try growing sunflowers that will rise through the year, and stand proud as they feed bees and birds alike. TIP: when they die back cut them off but leave the stump and roots in the ground to return nutrients to the soil.

4. Ask for advice on the best plants for bees

Peek over the garden fence or at your neighbours’ front gardens to see which plants are doing well, and which are being visited by bees. If you like the plants they are visiting, ask your neighbour what they are or take a picture and ask your garden centre. While at the garden centre, have a look to see which plants bees are visiting there.

5. Plant a mix of bee-friendly seeds to grow plants, fruit and veg 

Bees need different plants for food – from trees, hedges and shrubs, to bulbs, herbs and grasses – throughout the seasons.Small trees like hazel, holly and pussy (or goat) willow help bees at different times of the year. Ivy is a top food in autumn – try not to cut it cut it back until after flowering. Do you prefer to grow fruit  or vegetables? Bees will love both. You can even mix them up – there is no need to keep things formal and separate unless you want to. If you fancy growing your own, the bees will help pollinate your veg – try French, runner and broad beans; aubergines, onions and peppers. They’ll do the same for fruit – from apples, pears and plums to blackberries, strawberries and raspberries.

The greater variety of plant life, the greater the variety of bugs and birds they will support.

6. Give bees shelter by letting the grass grow

Give your mower – and back – a rest by letting some of your lawn (if you have one) grow longer. When you do mow, cutting less often and less closely will help give pollinators places to feed and shelter among the grass. TIP: raise the notches on the mower to lift the cutting blade a few centimetres.

Don’t push it, pile it. Another cheap way to help is with a small wood pile in a corner where bugs can nest and feed. This micro-habitat will decay over time and give a natural look. Use logs or sawn off tree branches but avoid treated wood. Even a small heap of pruned branches and twigs will give shelter and can be placed out of sight at the back of a border.

Being a bit messy is part of being a good gardener for nature. Mess can attract bugs, birds and larger creatures such as hedgehogs. (Tip: cut a hedgehog-shaped hole in the bottom of a fence panel to let them move through.)

Your compost heap may get occupied by harmless queen bumblebees and grass snakes seeking a place to nurture their young. Don’t worry, they will move on but you will be helping them heaps if you let them be.

7. Save the bees and put away the pesticides 

One thing to put away is the ‘bug gun’. Bee-harming pesticides and herbicides are implicated in bee decline. It’s tempting to put a can of spray in your basket on a trip to the garden centre, but it is a lot of money when dealing with real pests like aphids is as easy as stripping them off with gloved hands.

8. Use peat-free compost to save wildlife habitat

Help keep our threatened peat bogs intact by using the many good alternatives that now exist. Public concern about the loss of these unique natural habitats has persuaded the Government to phase out the sale of peat in garden centres by 2020.

9. Grow from seed to create great bee habitats 

Growing from seed is growing in popularity, especially vegetables. It is a cheap way to get the full experience of tending through to maturity and is the ideal method for creating pollinator-friendly habitats such as wildflower meadows. Look for heritage and naturally ‘open-pollinated’ seeds which help keep the diverse genetic make-up of what is being grown – contributing to greater biodiversity.

10. Welcome beneficial insects in your garden

Beneficial insects like hoverflies, beetles and ladybirds hunt aphids and other pests so treat them as allies not enemies. We can have great gardens and help bees and other nature at the same time.

To survive and thrive, bees need us to be the generation that saves our British bees. Letting bees be your guide and ally will help transform your patch, control real pests naturally and get your plants and crops pollinated for free. That’s more than a fair trade.